KS Bharat has kept brilliantly, but sticky one to decide between him and Dhruv Jurel, says Parthiv Patel

New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) In the run-up to the third Test between India and England, starting at Rajkot on Thursday, who between KS Bharat and Dhruv Jurel becomes the wicketkeeper for the hosts’ has emerged as a very puzzling question.

Though Bharat has been a fine keeper in the two matches so far, his batting numbers – 92 runs in four innings, don’t make for a good look. Moreover, in his seven-match Test career, Bharat is yet to score a half-century.

Parthiv Patel, the former India wicketkeeper-batter, believes Bharat has been a brilliant presence behind the stumps, but admitted that deciding between him and uncapped youngster Dhruv Jurel for the Rajkot Test is a sticky situation. With Jurel participating in keeping drills alongside the slip fielders in India’s practice session on Tuesday, one can’t rule out the possibility of him making his Test debut at Rajkot.

“It’s a very difficult one to answer – KS Bharat has kept wickets brilliantly so far in the series and also in last year’s series against Australia, where he was given an opportunity in all four games. As far as batting runs are concerned, you do want runs from him and there is no doubt about it. Nowadays, wicketkeeping is just not about keeping wickets in the team, it’s also about one being expected to score runs and that’s something which hasn’t come in big numbers,” said Patel, an expert with JioCinema and Sports18, in a virtual interaction.

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Patel, who played 25 Tests for India, thinks the direction which captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid will be crucial in deciding the Bharat-Dhruv toss-up for Rajkot Test. “But if you look at that knock of 40 (28 from Bharat) in the second innings at Hyderabad (where he was involved in a 58-run for the eighth wicket), he and Ashwin gave India a glimpse of hope after everyone fell.”

“So, it’s a very sticky one, where India sticks to KS Bharat for one more Test match or try to include a youngster in Dhruv, who’s done well for India ‘A’ and Uttar Pradesh. It’s upto team management to give Bharat that one more opportunity and see if he clicks. If he fares well, then it’s good for Indian cricket and if he doesn’t, then a promising youngster in Dhruv is waiting and get him straightaway into Test cricket.”

Ever since a near-fatal car crash sidelined Rishabh Pant from cricketing action in December 2022, no keeper-batter has been able to assert himself in the Indian Test team. Moreover, Ishan Kishan, who was the wicketkeeper-batter for the two Tests in West Indies in July last year, is on a mental fatigue break after opting out of the South Africa Test tour.

Patel admitted there is wobbliness in India’s wicketkeeping options in Test cricket, asserting that Bharat and Dhruv are the best available options as per the current scenario. “Lots of things have not helped India (in terms of Test wicketkeepers) after the unfortunate accident of Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan opting out.”

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“At this point of time, there is instability and one can’t deny that. But you got to take chances with whoever you have and I think the Indian selectors have selected the best two wicketkeepers to play Test cricket for India at this point of time.”

Speaking about Kishan being on a break from the game, Patel chose not to speculate on the likely reasons. “It’s entirely up to a player (to take a break). No one knows what’s exactly happening, including by me sitting here. I would rather stay away from speculating anything on personal matters.”

In the two Tests so far, England’s spinners have taken 33 wickets at an average of 33.90, which is better in comparison with India’s spinners, who have picked 23 wickets while averaging 38.39.

Additionally, the Indian batters got out while playing attacking shots against spinners in Hyderabad, with a feeling of them leaving a lot more runs which could have been scored coming to the fore. The same sentiment came back in Visakhapatnam, where India fell short of making 400 in both innings, despite being in dominant positions in both innings.

Though Rajkot pitch is expected to take little turn after being batting-friendly initially, Patel pointed out that India haven’t stitched a century-plus stand in the two Tests and wished for the hosts’ to set that as a primary aim for setting up a big total.

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“If there isn’t much help for the England spinners from the Rajkot pitch, then they don’t possess of the quality to trouble Indian batters. Only if the pitch provides them help, then they can be effective, as we saw in the first innings of second Test match. As far as the Indian batters are concerned, I whole-heartedly agree that there have been times where they haven’t made as many runs which one would have expected them to make.”

“But the captain and coach are aware that there are shortcomings in this aspect, and needs improvement. What I feel would be the thinking from the Indian batters at Rajkot will be that whoever the set batter will be, he must go big now. An example of that came in the Visakhapatnam Test when Yashasvi Jaiswal got a double hundred in the first innings and Shubman Gill scored a century in the second innings.”

“Plus, I believe that there haven’t been any 100+ partnerships from the Indian batters so far, and the initial target for them at Rajkot would be to stitch a century-plus stand. If the Indian batters focus on establishing a century-plus stand, then one can see big runs from them at Rajkot,” he concluded.

–IANS

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